COMPOSTABLE vs BIODEGRADABLE:
What is the Difference?
The term ‘Biodegradable’ often refers to plastics to which additives were added, for it to more rapidly disintegrate in landfill or natural environments. However this process can still take many years but what is more troubling is that it leaves toxic residue or micro-plastics in the environment, posing a danger to humans and animals.
‘Composting’ on the other hand, is a form of waste disposal where an organic material is able to decompose naturally under oxygen and microbe-rich conditions and back into natural elements such as biomass, water and CO2 without leaching any toxins into the environment during the decomposition process. The benefit of this is that not only does the material not end up in landfill but when turned into compost, can help fertilise plants and vegetation.
Thus it holds true that Bonnie Bio’s certified ‘Compostable’ products are significantly better and more environmentally friendly than other similar competing ‘Biodegradable’ products.
There are different compostability standards to help you determine the necessary conditions required for products to decompose as well as how long you can expect it to take. In Australia, there are two standards for compostable products: AS 4736 for Industrial Compostability; and AS 5810 for Home Compostable.
In Australia, for a plastic material to be certified as compostable, it must comply with the AS 4736-2006 standard. This standard provides the criteria against which plastics materials that are to be biodegraded in industrial anaerobic composting facilities, are assessed. Industrial composting facilities are able to process organic waste at high temperatures that cannot be replicated in the home (50°C or higher), thus accelerating the rate at which the waste decomposes. Therefore, just because something has been certified for the AS 4736-2006 standard, does not mean it will decompose in the same way in a home compost system!
For a plastic material to be certified to the AS 5810-2010 home compostability standard, it must undergo stringent testing conducted by recognised and accredited third-parties. Due to the differences between a home compost system and industrial compost facilty, the testing period for this standard is a maximum of 12 months however, the end results remain the same as the AS 4736-2006 standard. That means a minimum of 90% biodegredation, no toxic effect to compost, plants and earthworms and materials should contain more than 50% organic material.
The AS 5810-2010 standard is preferred as industrial compost facilities are still uncommon, therefore it is best to ensure your product can be disposed of easily in the home.